Film and TV

Stranger Things and Obi-Wan Kenobi: We're Glad You're Back

The Stranger Things crew is back and spread out across the country.
The Stranger Things crew is back and spread out across the country. Screenshot

After a nearly three-year hiatus, Stranger Things has finally made its way back into fans' Netflix feed. The series, which became a legit phenomenon for the streamer, embodied everything about the binge-watch culture that has been normalized and has been the go-to strategy for Netflix.

The fourth season is split up into two halves, with the last two episodes set to premiere in July. The kids it's been centered on are more mature and older, and the horror they are dealing with has been cranked up a good amount.

It is challenging to stick the landing for shows so big in scope that have garnered an involved and dedicated fanbase. The new season is doing a lot, and that's reflected by the run times of the episodes, all of which go past the hour mark. The first half of its final season is doing mostly setup work and backstory filling, gearing its characters and the audience up for an intense finale to the series. The mythology of the season is being explored heavily with Eleven’s storyline involving her origins and how all the dark dimension stuff kicked off.

Having the characters separated into subgroups was an interesting choice but, by design, will make the eventual reunion between all the scattered parties that much more impactful in the upcoming final episodes this season. (A fifth season reportedly will be the last for the series with a possible 2023 release date.)  There are a lot of tasks or quests that have to get done on multiple fronts because characters are split up into groups across the country (and the world), and it can slow the show down a good amount. Some scenes go on longer than they have any business being.

Despite the first half of the season being all “set up,” there are some great set pieces, and the horror elements have definitely jumped up a level or two. The newcomers in previous seasons like Maya Hawke's Robin and Sadie Sink’s Max helped expand the group from its earlier seasons, allowing the splitting up of all the main characters to be doable.

Newcomers to Season 4, Argyle (Eduardo Franco) and Eddie (Joseph Quinn), are cool additions to the ensemble and add their distinct personalities to these already established ones we have spent hours with already. Netflix seems like it might be trending away from these big-budget projects, and it's probably unlikely that we ever see anything like Stranger Things again once its final season airs.

Stranger Things airs on Netflix.

click to enlarge The return of Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi - SCREEN SHOT
The return of Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Screen shot
Star Wars is TV now. One of the most popular and iconic franchises in pop culture has shifted to television, changing its philosophy and branching out into different modes of storytelling. After the latest row of films that had mixed results with some of the best moments and movies in the franchise and some that are best forgotten, Star Wars has reset what it wants to do and has taken full advantage of the streaming explosion that's occurred over the past few years establishing its new era on the small screen.

Obi-Wan Kenobi
is Disney+’s biggest Star Wars show yet, marking the return of Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan in a concept of a story that fans have been hoping for for decades. The series has to accomplish a lot. Like everything in the franchise these days, it has to be everything to everyone and stretches itself thin to appease as many people as possible. Though it has problems that can be hard to overlook, the show has delivered some excellent moments that make the exercise worth it through its run so far.

The series looks at the time Obi-Wan spent between Revenge Of The Sith and A New Hope, something fans have wanted for a long time with McGregor, who was often the best thing about the prequel movies, returning to the role. The show is yet another adult-protecting child narrative, almost the same conceit as The Mandalorian, which kicked off the Star Wars television era.

The Lone Wolf and Cub-ification of Star Wars is seemingly their go-to narrative strategy now and allows for the show to keep treading in nostalgic waters while not really offering anything new. Obi-Wan is tasked with finding and protecting a young Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) and has to confront his past while protecting the future. On the surface, it's fine, but putting half of the storytelling responsibility on a very young actor is probably not the best idea (even though the young actor is good), considering the history of some of the much-maligned moments. The seams of the show are way too visible at times where it seems like details and plot are just tools to get characters from A to B so they can do C without any reasoning or effort put into the how or why or if it makes any sense at all.

Through four episodes, there were moments of what you would hope an Obi-Wan show would be like, as well as moments that are brought down by non-existent emotional stakes concerning new characters that aren't fleshed out and hold no importance. The connection with Darth Vader, his former student, their fractured and tragic relationship, and the eradication of the Jedi with Obi-Wan being forced into hiding and dealing with his failings are the most interesting parts of what surrounds the show. When it leans into those aspects, it's good.

The series wasn't anything other than fine until the fifth episode, where these iconic characters that fans want to see finally get to do cool stuff with lightsabers and the force with some actual emotional weight behind the episode's big swings. The fifth episode, action-wise and narratively, was put together perfectly and lived up to the hype of what the show promised, setting up a finale where hopefully it ends with the same type of cohesion and flair as the episode prior.

Obi-Wan Kenobi airs on Disney+.
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Contributor Jamil David is a native Houstonian and Texas Southern University alumnus. He is interested in TV, sports and pop culture. @JMLJMLD
Contact: Jamil David